How to Get Rid of Powder Post Beetles

Tips to get rid your home of powder post beetles

Termite tent on house
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Powder post beetles can infest any item made of wood. Most of the critters I hear about when helping home buyers find a home are the type that like wood with a high moisture content, but there are beetles that prefer to live in dry wood. Adult beetles are dark brown to black and only 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch long.

Powder Post Beetle Infestation

Powder post beetles may infest wood at any stage in the wood manufacturing process or on the construction site. Unsealed wood can harbor beetle larvae, so adults might not emerge until long after your home has been constructed. It could even take several years, depending on the species and individual conditions. The heat from kiln-drying kills all stages of powder post beetles, and although dried wood is not as attractive to them, the process is not a cure for reinfestation.

Wood Damage 

Adults beetles lay eggs in the crevices of untreated wood. When larvae hatch, they start tunneling. Sometimes you can see the outline of tunnels near the wood's surface, following the soft areas of the grain, but in many cases, you can't see any evidence at all that larvae are present.

As the larvae bore, the tunnels behind them become packed with sawdust. They stop near the surface of the wood, where they mature.

Adults break through the surface, leaving tiny round holes where they emerge. Sawdust spills from the hole and can continue to spill out for some time even though an infestation is over.

Tips for Getting Rid of Powder Post Beetles

There are several chemicals that can be used, but they do not penetrate sealed wood. A more extreme -- and expensive -- measure is to tent the house and use poison gas to eradicate the beetles.

Ask a pest control professional for advice about your specific situation. In some cases, you'll find that having a few powder post beetles in your home is nothing to be overly concerned about. A pest control professional might tell you to simply watch for further development.

There are other ways to prevent a powder post beetle infestation.

  • If your house sits on a crawl space or has a dirt basement, cover the earth with plastic to reduce moisture. Watch the surface of the plastic for sawdust falling from floor joists above.
  • Inspect the floor or moldings beneath interior wood walls. Little piles of sawdust indicate beetles have been in the wood but are not necessarily a sign of active infestation.
  • Schedule yearly inspections with a qualified inspector.

If you're buying a home, look closely at wood beams and other structural components for beetle exit holes and sawdust. If you find traces of a beetle infestation, have the home inspected by a pest professional.

If the infestation appears to be severe, consider having an engineer or general contractor inspect the structural integrity of the home.